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Jon Lindgren, Published May 28 2009

Critic should first dispel myths

Todd Gross recently criticized the Red River Freethinkers (“Freethinkers not thinking clearly”). If Gross chooses to write about the Ten Commandments monument, it would be more helpful if he would dispel myths rather than create them. Here are some myths he could help dispel:

Myth One: “The city’s sponsorship of the monument was endorsed by both Christians and Jews.” The truth is that it has been endorsed by Christian people and organizations, but not by Jewish ones. One local rabbi endorsed it, but later wrote that this endorsement, early in his career, was a mistake. Jews have not had good experiences in countries that have endorsed the Christian and Muslim faiths.

Myth Two: “The religious message of the Ten Commandments is on display in the Chambers of the United States Supreme Court.” This is not true as was recently acknowledged by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

Myth Three: “The Fraternal Order of Eagles, which is listed as the monument’s donor, is a secular not a religious organization.” To join the Eagles, one has to pledge a belief in God. In addition, we now know that during the period when the monuments were being installed, the Eagles were conducting a propaganda campaign aimed at troubled boys. Publications by the Eagles at this time included the message that Jesus Christ died for our sins and young men should convert to Christianity. Display of the Ten Commandments in every home and in every town square was part of the Eagles’ theory that Christianity would save our youth.

Myth Four: “The authors of our Constitution would be pleased to see a local government spend taxpayers’ money to advertise and promote the Christian religion.” This is the myth implied in Gross’ letter. The Founding Fathers had a chance to establish Christianity as a national religion. They took a pass.

The Ten Commandments dispute can disappear by simply displaying the monument on private, rather than public, property.

Former Fargo Mayor Lindgren is president of Red River Freethinkers.